Dems convene to talk about Texas two-step primary system

July 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Media Coverage

Some support change that will only count primary vote results
By: Ashley Crooks
The Daily Texan
7/8/08

Buttons and signs that read “Count ALL Votes Equally” worn by a group of Texas Democrats expressed their frustrations with the March 4 presidential primary elections.

The group convened to discuss the first meeting, held Monday morning, of an advisory committee appointed by the Texas Democratic Party to reconsider the logistics of the “Texas two-step,” the process by which Texas delegates are apportioned to candidates.

The 193 Texas Democratic delegates were alloted to Senate districts that had higher voter turnouts in past presidential and gubernatorial elections, which sparked controversy during the high voter turnout in the March primaries.

“This election, 2.2 million Democrats were involved in the primary. Our caucus system was overwhelmed, to say the least,” said Sen. Royce West, a Dallas Democrat and chairman of the committee.

West said the committee will keep an open mind as it hears testimony during four or five hearings similar to Monday’s to be held across the state.

The next hearing has yet to be scheduled.

The state caucus system allows Democrats to effectively “vote twice” – once in the primary election and again in the precinct caucuses on the evening of the primary. Approximately two-thirds of Texas’ Democratic delegates are decided by the primary vote and one-third by caucuses.

Some voters called the process undemocratic because it excludes voters who cannot make it to their precinct caucuses.

“It is an unfair system to parents with young children, people with two jobs, the elderly and the disabled,” said Guadalupe Sosa, a state delegate for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Many voters who were present at caucus meetings in March said they were forced to leave before casting their votes because of a lengthy and disorganized sign-in process overwhelmed by a higher-than-usual voter turnout.

“I myself vote every time. I had to leave early because it was just too much,” Sosa said. “Delegates should be apportioned on straight votes.”

If the Texas Democratic Party were to change its rules for future elections, delegates could be allocated to candidates based solely on the results of the primary vote.

“Democracy works best when there are as few barriers as possible to participation,” said Sue Berkel, an Austin-area lawyer and national delegate. “The Texas system disenfranchises voters and dilutes our votes.”

Amy Esdorn, a Texas A&M graduate student, said she could not participate in a caucus because she had a class from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on the day of the primary.

“I feel my vote didn’t count as much as others who could stay out and vote for their candidate,” Esdorn said.

Despite a number of frustrations with the primary process, there are benefits to the caucus system: It serves to energize the Democratic base and allows for the discussion of ideas, Obama supporter Peter Nolan said.

“The meetings are about finding a way to keep the benefits of the caucus and lose the detriments,” Nolan said.

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